STORY WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
For Digital First Media
Leading with a stunning and often operatic voice that reaches for notes rarely attempted in indie music, Nika Roza Danilova, will be hitting Delaware for the first time at the Firefly Music Festival next week under her better known project name, Zola Jesus.
“I’m really excited because I’ve never been to Delaware and a bunch of my friends are playing like Run the Jewels, so it’s gonna be cool,” Danilova said via phone between tour legs recently. “It’s also really fun because you get to see a lot of musicians you know so it’s like a big summer camp.”
Riding high on the praise delivered for her fifth album, last fall’s Taiga, Danilova’s music varies between synth heavy art pop and soaring vocals over emotive keyboard movements. And even though festivals tend to have something for everyone, she sticks out a bit as something completely different at Firefly.
“It’s terrifying,” Danilova says laughing. “Because you’re put in this position where people aren’t really there to see you, so you can’t even be guaranteed that they’re going to want to see you, but it’s also really fun because it’s a really good challenge and you have to work really hard to get people on your side. It’s kind of like this showcase in a way and you really have to hit the ground and show people what you stand for as a musician because a lot of them probably never heard of you. So it’s terrifying, but it’s a good sort of terrifying.”
Despite having been an indie darling for half a decade now, with Taiga, Danilova has made some of the most mainstream music of her career. It won’t be a surprise if many a wandering Firefly Festival attendee finds themselves drawn to the Forest Stage early Saturday evening when Zola Jesus takes the stage with infectious new songs like “Dangerous Days” and “Hollow.”
“I just had time to think about what I wanted to do, to write and to find the voice of the record whereas in the past, sometimes the voice doesn’t come until the very end and in the meantime you’re kind of panicking,” she says of making Taiga. “So it was really nice to have that time to figure out what I wanted to say; and that’s the way it should be.”
And though there are some songs in Danilova’s repertoire which are quieter in nature that might put her stage presence to the test, she’s confident about pulling it off.
“It’s hard because usually those [slower songs] don’t go over well with a festival audience because a festival is festive so people want to hear something more energetic,” she says. “But when people are engaged in an artist and they want to see an artist and be taken somewhere. So once you wrangle them in and lock them in, they’re with you.”
Tickets are still available for the Firefly Music Festival. For more information, visit www.fireflyfestival.com